New 360-degree Video Experience Allows Viewers to Step Into the Shoes of the Wrongfully Convicted

Only the people who have been through it can truly understand the experience of having been wrongfully convicted and sent to prison. But a new, 360-degree immersive video will allow viewers to gain greater understanding than ever before of what it is to “walk a mile in my shoes” when you are an exoneree who spent almost 40 years in prison.

That is the experience of Rickey Jackson of Cleveland, Ohio, who was exonerated in 2014. One of the longest-serving exonerees in U.S. history, the realities of his surreal, new post-prison life can be uniquely understood through the release of “Send Me Home,” a 360-degree video experience conceived and produced by Lonelyleap Film.

“Send Me Home” invites participants to take a journey in 360 degrees, as Rickey grants us entry into his private world, guiding us through time gone, family known and the spaces he lovingly embraces today. The 360-degree video transports participants into Rickey’s mindspace, urging them to reflect on the expanse of their own lives in relation to the time Rickey has lost.

Rickey was represented by the Ohio Innocence Project, which ultimately secured his release from a death sentence that began with a wrongful conviction in a 1975 murder case.

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NBA Coaches Join Awareness Effort for Wrongful Conviction Day 2018

Today, Oct. 2, is Wrongful Conviction Day — the annual international observance dedicated to ending wrongful convictions and highlighting the plight of those convicted of crimes they did not commit.

WCD_logoThis year, Wrongful Conviction Day is highlighting the role that racial bias plays in wrongful convictions and the efforts to fix the criminal justice system in its entirety. Created by the Innocence Network in 2014, Wrongful Conviction Day aims to raise awareness of the causes and remedies of wrongful conviction and to recognize the tremendous personal, social and emotional costs of wrongful conviction for innocent people and their families.

“Wrongful Conviction Day is not only part of a movement, it is also always a personal day for everyone who works on behalf of the Ohio Innocence Project,” says Mark Godsey, the OIP’s co-founder and director. Continue reading

Ten years after: An exoneree success story

“Hello truth.”

That’s the phrase Robert McClendon will always be associated with. It was his reaction 10 years ago when DNA results were announced that conclusively cleared him of the rape charge that had cost him his freedom for the previous 18 years.

But, in this 10th anniversary year of that moment, Robert says they are not necessarily the words that stick out most in his mind from that day.

mcclendon o'brien

Robert McClendon and Ron O’Brien

It was an exchange with Columbus Dispatch reporter Mike Wagner, whose reporting plays prominently in Robert’s story, that remains most vivid to Robert.

Heading into the proceedings to announce the results of the DNA comparison, no one was telling Robert what the results showed.

“No one would say anything about it. My family was bewildered, they were stunned,” Robert recalls. “I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, the results must have come back inconclusive.’ All kind of things were going through my mind, and I will always remember this conversation with Mike Wagner.

“Mike knew I liked basketball, and he was a high school basketball player himself, so he had said, ‘If you ever get out, we’ll have to play a game of 1-on-1.’ So no one is telling me anything, and then Mike walks by and he says the words I’ll never forget, ‘You ready for that basketball game?’ “

That is how Robert McClendon learned his 18-year nightmare was drawing to a close.

McClendon, Wagner and others involved in his case – along with fellow Ohio Innocence Project (OIP) exonerees Dean Gillispie, Laurese Glover and Nancy Smith – revisited his journey to justice this week during a panel discussion, “Hello Truth, Ten Years of Freedom” in Robert’s hometown of Columbus.

Also participating were Columbus city council member Jaiza Page, who served as moderator, Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien, Judge Charles Schneider of the Franklin County Common Pleas Court, former Columbus Dispatch reporter Geoff Dutton and OIP Deputy Director Jennifer Paschen Bergeron.

Robert’s case was a true landmark moment for the innocence movement in Ohio. Continue reading

NRE’s Newest Report: Years Lost, Human and Other Resources Squandered

The National Registry of Exonerations’ latest report reveals a staggering 20,080 years lost behind bars since 1989 by victims of wrongful conviction and, in an accompanying report, $2.2 billion in compensation paid to exonerees by governments, even though more than half of exonerees have never been compensated.  Radley Balko of The Washington Post provides this informative preview opinion of the soon-to-be-released report. Thanks to the National Registry of Exonerations for revealing indisputable data that continues to be a blaring, heartbreaking call for criminal justice reform.

 

 

Taiwan Innocence Project helps man gain total exoneration, 32 years later

After a 32-year battle to clear his name, Su Pin-kun can finally claim the title of “exoneree.”

Su’s saga to gain justice has been one of the best known in all of Taiwan. Working with the Taiwan Innocence Project, his full exoneration was finalized with an overturned verdict on Aug. 27.

Su from Taiwan

Su Pin-kun

Su, now age 69, was originally sentenced to serve 15 years after being found guilty on charges of robbery and attempted murder in 1987, based on the testimony of a co-defendant who had pled guilty. Yet Su has steadfastly maintained his innocence from the time of his arrest, despite being subjected to treatment during interrogation that included waterboarding, sounding an air raid siren while it was being held to his ear and repeated kicks to the area of his waist.

Being aware of how Su was being treated, his co-defendant confessed to the crimes to avoid similar punishment. He subsequently recanted both his own confession and absolved Su of any guilt in later court hearings. Continue reading

Philly’s Conviction Integrity Unit adds Ohio Innocence Project veteran

With a new position in the Philadelphia Office of the District Attorney, former Ohio Innocence Project (OIP) attorney Carrie Wood knows that, although the title has changed, her goal—as the old TV saying goes, to protect the innocent—is the same.

Carrie Wood portrait1

Carrie Wood

Wood’s move from the OIP to the district attorney’s staff isn’t as dramatic a change in direction as it sounds. She is an assistant district attorney, but her assignment is with the office’s Conviction Integrity Unit.

The emergence of conviction integrity units (CIUs) is a response from within the justice system to the irrefutable evidence that has come forth through the Innocence Movement that the system is not infallible, and that sometimes those convicted and imprisoned are truly innocent.

Wood has landed her new position in Philadelphia at a particularly interesting time. A new, reform-minded district attorney, Larry Krasner, won election to the office last November. Krasner’s career experience is as a civil rights attorney and public defender.

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Not All Teens Who Confess Are Guilty

We have previously addressed the subject false confession a number of times on this blog. Please see False Confessions – How Can That Happen?  One of the very egregious cases of false confession we talked about was that of Marty Tankleff, who at 17, was manipulated by police interrogators into falsely confessing to the murder of his parents. After 18 years of wrongful imprisonment, Marty became a lawyer; and a law professor.

Marty has recently authored an article on CNN about false confessions by teenagers, who are particularly vulnerable.

Please see the CNN story by Marty Tankleff  here.

 

POST MEEK MILL: REPORTS DISCLOSES COMPANIES PROFITING FROM PRISON

Robert Rihmeek Williams may be free but millions of other young, black and brown men just like him are not—and that’s no coincidence. After a lengthy legal battle and an outpouring of national support, the 30-year-old Philadelphia rapper better known as “Meek Mill” was released from jail on April 24. The hip-hop star was sentenced last November to two to four years behind bars for a series of minor, non-violent probation violations, following his 2008 conviction for drug and weapons charges. One of the violations included performing a motorcycle stunt while shooting a music video in New York in August 2017.

The sentence sparked mass outrage among fans, celebrities, professional athletes, prison reform activists, and the hip-hop community at large. Hundreds of thousands of people protested in Philadelphia, signed online petitions, and stood behind the #FreeMeekMill campaign. They argued that the harsh punishment was unwarranted and rooted in racism. For many, the hip-hop star became a symbol of discrimination within the U.S. criminal justice system, which predominantly impacts men of color.

Following his release last week, Williams vowed to help others trapped in the cycle of recidivism. “I understand that many people of color across the country don’t have that luxury [to fight justice] and I plan to use my platform to shine a light on those issues,” he tweeted.

Williams’ case is not unusual. According to reports, one in three black men can expect to go to prison in their lifetime. After being convicted of a crime, offenders are then often subjected to parole or probation and years of court-ordered supervision. As a result, even a small violation can send them back to prison for a long time. This policy disproportionately affects African American men who compromise one-third of the 4.6 million Americans currently on parole or subject to probation, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. Overall, 1 in every 15 African American men are incarcerated compared to 1 in every 36 Hispanic men and 1 in every 106 white men. But, not only are these men being stripped of their time and families, corporations are making billions of dollars in exchange for their freedom.

Read about the corporations making a profit on other’s freedom Here

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What does Kansas owe the wrongfully convicted? Actual compensation

The state of Kansas is poised to take a significant step toward righting a grave injustice, the theft of people’s freedom for crimes they did not commit.

On Friday, legislators worked out a compromise, agreeing to award $65,000 per year for every year an exoneree was wrongfully imprisoned.

Initial payments would be up to $100,000 or 25 percent of what is owed. Subsequent annual payments would be $80,000.

The reason is telling. Several Kansas men were wrongfully imprisoned for so long that legislators felt it would take too many years to fairly compensate them without the higher yearly payouts.

Read more about the compensation here.

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More States Forcing Prosecutors to Hand Over Evidence — Even When It Hurts Their Case

The next frontier in criminal justice reform

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Innocence March: Recognizing the Wrongfully Convicted

On March 24, 2018, more than five hundred men and women marched through Memphis Tennessee.  Most of them had spent a large part of their lives in prison– a combined 3,501 years among them– for crimes they did not commit.

The march was the closing event for the 2018 Innocence Network conference, a gathering of exonorees and lawyers working on behalf of those wrongfully convicted.  Exonorees came from every state in the country and from countries across the globe. They marched with attorneys and advocates and family. They held signs demanding change in the system that had wronged them.  Demanding accountability. Demanding, at least, public recognition that innocent men and women were being arrested and convicted by agents acting on the public’s behalf.

Just days before the march, the National Registry of Exonerations at the University of Michigan released a review of the 139 people exonerated in 2017.  Of them, well over half were initially convicted as the result of official misconduct, such as officers threatening witnesses, lab analysts falsifying results, or exculpatory information being withheld at trial. This misconduct is statistically more likely to occur in Reading more here

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DNA’s Revolutionary Role in Freeing the Innocent

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Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds

Fascinating stuff related to confirmation bias and tunnel vision…

In 1975, researchers at Stanford invited a group of undergraduates to take part in a study about suicide. They were presented with pairs of suicide notes. In each pair, one note had been composed by a random individual, the other by a person who had subsequently taken his own life. The students were then asked to distinguish between the genuine notes and the fake ones.

Some students discovered that they had a genius for the task. Out of twenty-five pairs of notes, they correctly identified the real one twenty-four times. Others discovered that they were hopeless. They identified the real note in only ten instances.

As is often the case with psychological studies, the whole setup was a put-on. Though half the notes were indeed genuine—they’d been obtained from the Los Angeles County coroner’s office—the scores were fictitious. The students who’d been told they were almost always right were, on average, no more discerning than those who had been told they were mostly wrong.

In the second phase of the study, the deception was revealed. Read more here.

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#BlindInjusticeChapter5BlindMemory

A classic by the leading memory expert, Elizabeth Loftus. Best 17 minutes you can spend to learn about human memory problems and how they impact the criminal justice system.

Fake media is coming for our memories

 

New Jersey AG Presses for Reforms in Response to Exonerations of Eric Kelley and Ralph Lee

The recent exonerations of Eric Kelley and Ralph Lee for a 1993 robbery and murder in Paterson, New Jersey have sparked serious concerns from Attorney General Gurbir Grewal who has decided to take over the investigation from Passaic County Prosecutors. The wrongful convictions of both Kelley and Lee, which were overturned based on new DNA evidence pointing to another man who committed a similar crime, have moved Grewal to consider statewide reforms that would improve how the criminal justice system responds to wrongful convictions in the state. He has also called on Supreme Court Chief Justice James Zazzali to independently review how prosecutors managed Kelley and Lee’s case.  The prosecutors defended the convictions of Kelley and Lee rather, yet failed to investigate the man identified by the DNA testing.

“We’re going to supersede the investigation … to ensure public confidence in light of the criticism that has been leveled and the coverage of the matter,” said Attorney General Grewal.

The proposed reforms Grewal has decided to pursue include creating a conviction review unit to examine wrongful conviction claims and help prevent innocent people Read more here

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In the US, there have been almost two thousand wrongful convictions Yet in so many cases, prosecutors, police, judges and even defense attorneys simply refuse to acknowledge these catastrophic mistakes. Our guest – a former prosecutor – explains why we blind ourselves to these injustices. Read more and listen to the podcast here

Former FBI Investigator says convicted killer Jens Soering should be pardoned

Some law enforcement officers stepping up for innocence and pointing to tunnel vision as leading to a wrongful conviction

 

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His Clients Weren’t Complaining. But the Judge Said This Lawyer Worked Too Hard.

Letter: Probation is prison, minus the metal bars